A green escape from the cares of the world

There are days I want to turn off the television, the radio, social media. Days I want to escape from the horrors of our world. Days I want to let nature enfold me and bring a sense of peace back to my soul.

If you’re visiting this blog today, maybe you’re feeling that way, too? Want to come on a virtual journey with me?

When my husband and I were in Oregon for the Olympic trials, we spent one of the competition’s off days visiting the McKenzie River in the Cascades. The drive was beautiful, and at one point, I couldn’t see anything but a sliver of road surrounded all around by tall evergreens. It was a sight for sore eyes missing the green of home.

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Trees, trees everywhere (a view from where we parked the car and got out to venture around)

Our surroundings turned magical once we got out of the car. Continue reading

The essential nature of the field trip

“The lupines are at their most glorious best right now along the river trail,” my husband said to me after his run. His words changed my plans for the morning, especially once I realized I had not taken the river trail for at least five weeks because of shorter walks while my dog healed. She was ready for a longer walk, and I was ready for a field trip.

We rounded the first corner of the river trail, and this is what greeted us:

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A real-life Impressionist painting?

She and I walked the trail together first, and I returned later with the camera. I didn’t want to wear her out with so much standing still while I took photos.

As I walked, I could feel myself inhale more deeply and let go with each exhale a little bit of the tension that had built up in me these last few hard weeks.

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Among the sea of purple, I stopped to listen. The wind rustled—a gentle, unceasing caress—through the flowers. Bees and hummingbirds buzzed about, and water rushed by.

I realized I had underestimated the essential nature of the field trip, more healing and more necessary even in adulthood than in childhood.

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Purple lupine and other blooms, growing wherever possible along the trail

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I loved field trips during school when I was growing up. Whether to a museum, or a farm, or the nearby university, a field trip meant something different and new. My favorite final exam in high school involved a field trip to the art museum so we could choose pieces of art and sit in front of them as we wrote our essays about the artist, the piece, the time period, the art movement of the day.

Field trips take us out of the ordinary, mundane tasks of our daily existence. They refresh, invigorate and recharge us. They teach us to pause and examine beauty we might otherwise miss. I’m especially grateful for this unplanned one.

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Poppies are blooming, too, and I love to see them standing out in the sea of purple flowers.

Have you been on a field trip lately? Is it time to get outside and discover what you’ve been missing this spring?

The owl and the cat

I promised an update on my owl post from a couple of weeks ago. You remember the owl, right?

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We had a bit of drama the night of the post. My husband and I were cleaning up the kitchen, sorting through mail, doing the sorts of tasks we normally do at the end of the evening. Our dog, who had been asleep in the living room, all of a sudden went berserk by the window closest to the owl house.

I saw something moving on one of the window panes and flipped on an outside light to see what was happening. I realized it was the owl—clearly a juvenile out of its nest but unable to fly—clinging as if for dear life to one of the thin bars across the window. On the ground below, staring up at it, sat our next-door neighbor’s cat. Continue reading

The houseguests

I’m a big fan of nature, but there are certain kinds of nature I don’t especially care for: ticks, mosquitoes, skunks and snakes take turns at the top of the list. When people ask my husband how we’re settling in to our new home, he typically replies along these lines: “We’re doing well, except for some close encounters with nature.” This allows us to tell the dog v. skunk story, or talk about the dead rattlesnake I saw on a walk with the dog, or describe the coyote that seemed a little too interested in the dog and me a few mornings ago.

I was sitting in the living room one evening last week, when motion in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked out of the window and could see something small, slender and silvery (very snakelike) dangling in the tree. I quickly realized it was a snake, possibly alive, in the bill of an owl.

The owl didn’t surprise me. For several weeks in the evening, I’d been catching sight of an owl in those trees. It has even flapped overhead when I’m out for one last trip of the night with the dog.

The snake part disconcerted me, though. I immediately Googled: Do owls eat snakes. The response wasn’t entirely reassuring.

Yes, owls eat snakes (along with rodents and other undesirable critters—yay for owls!), but screech owls may also bring a small, live snake to their nests to keep the nest clean of bugs and other critters. After that, I guess the owl probably eats the snake. I almost feel sorry for the snake.

My overactive imagination conjured up snakes dropping out of owls’ nests onto my head. And then I wondered if I could just live inside for the rest of my life. Nooooo, I like outside too much.

Besides owls are good and cool, even if they are a bit spooky with their piercing stares and talons, and even if they do invite in strange houseguests. So I was excited at the prospect of a nest and owls keeping rodents away. I went outside the next day to see if I could find a nest. It didn’t take long:

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A little owl peeks out of its house.

I’m not sure how I never noticed this house before, attached to the side of our house. But there it was, complete with a fluffy owl looking out—in the middle of the day. Aren’t owls supposed to be nocturnal? Was this one a fledgling, maybe a teenage owl trying to push the limits of its curfew? Is there a live snake in that box attached to my house?

These questions whirled around in my head. I took two more pictures.

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When I emailed these photos to my husband, he said the owl looked angry in the last picture. “That’s why there aren’t four pictures,” I responded. I’ve learned that owls intimidate me.

While I’m delighted to be hosting an owl family, I’m new at this. I have lots of questions:

  • Is the one in the photo a juvenile? If not, why is it so fuzzy?
  • Why is it awake/alert during the day?
  • Is it a Western Screech-Owl? (I’ve only seen an owl flying around at night and haven’t heard any owl songs to help me identify it.)
  • Will the mom and dad get protective of the nest in ways the dog and I may interpret as aggressive?
  • Will it eat skunks (oh, pretty please, I hope so.)?
  • Is it likely to drop live snakes from its house? Or will it eat the snake when nesting is done (oh, pretty please, I hope so.)?
  • How long is nesting season?

If you’ve had owls nest near (or on) your house before, what advice do you have? Or maybe you’re an owl expert and can help with some of these questions? I’d love to hear from you.

Settling in and a New Year’s wish

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It feels good to be back here with you after a four-week break to move across the country and start getting settled in to an unfamiliar new home.

I hope you’re enjoying some rest during the holiday season, though I know tonight may bring revelry and exuberance as we usher in 2015.

As I settle in to my new home and get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings, I’ve been struck with how fortunate I am to live where I do, near a beautiful protected park along the river. From the first morning’s walk with my husband and dog, I was captivated with the surprising beauty and peace of the place.

I was surprised one morning to see this tree filled with vultures. I tried to look alive as I ran under the tree.

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How many vultures can you spot in this tree?

This isn’t even a very big tree. I was amazed at the numbers gathered there and was briefly unsettled, until I remembered my husband telling me about the salmon spawning here during his visits in November.

The vultures didn’t care one little iota about me. They were here for their Christmas dinner, and given the smell of rotting salmon coming off the river, I was glad for their presence. They still have work to do, and I find myself happily looking for them and counting them each morning. Today was breezy, and several circled the river riding the wind. They looked almost graceful in their enjoyment of the ride.

While I would never have thought vultures would teach me something about a new calendar, these birds have. Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Just as I don’t want salmon carcasses left to decompose along my running route, I don’t want to cling to the old things that are no longer meant for me. I need to let go, and I need to embrace the sometimes ungainly, unlovely helpers I encounter along the way.

While I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, there are things I have to let go of to embrace the year ahead. Can you relate?

My wish for you (and me) is this:

May we let go of what must be left in 2014. May we embrace the coming year. May we encounter gentle paths along the way. And yet, when we encounter the inevitable rocky paths, may we embrace those, too, knowing that they help us stay sharp, they help us develop compassion for others’ rocky paths, and they challenge us to become a stronger, better self than we would be if all our paths were calm. Most of all, may we flourish.

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I’ll leave you with a scene I’m blessed enough to see every day. The dog is settling in well, and we both enjoy stopping here in the mornings to watch the river teem with birds. I couldn’t ask for a better way to greet each morning, and I wish you many moments of calm and serene beauty as you start your year.

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My dog and I run the trails and stop by the river each morning, becoming more “local” every day. 

 

All the best to you in 2015!

PS—Thanks to some crazy VAT law the EU passed, the price for my ebook will go up tomorrow. So buy it today before the price increase! (I think it’s a steal at $3.99.)